How images will affect your e-commerce success
This year, US e-commerce revenue is expected to rise to more than $350 billion, and in five years’ time, this figure will have risen to half a trillion. Anyone who says that e-commerce is important for businesses can justifiably put themselves forward for 2017’s Understatement of the Year award. The fact is, e-commerce is rapidly overtaking traditional shopping as the default.
If you have an online shop, the above might have you rubbing your hands in glee and wondering whether you should put in your order for that Ferrari now or wait until the winter sales. Unfortunately, it is not all good news, as a few others have noticed the above statistics. In fact, the online marketplace is becoming ever more crowded.
The thing about e-commerce is that all those things that can make it such a no-brainer for business success can also turn around and bite you. Barriers to entry are low, you can create a half-decent website in 30 minutes, and by focusing on good content and some clever SEO strategies, you can start ranking well on Google.
All this is fantastic, but the trouble is, it also applies to the 1.25 billion other websites out there. If you think that is an exaggeration, just take a look at this counter – but be warned, you can end up hypnotized.
These are not the only things that can turn around and bite you, though. The increased popularity of mobile technology has probably been the biggest technological game changer over the past decade. More people now use smartphones than desktop to search the web. Again, this sounds great, until you realize that all those beautiful high-res photos that you uploaded now take forever to load up on a mobile device. In these days of instant gratification, three seconds is a long time. That might sound like the punchline of a Woody Allen joke, but the implications for e-commerce sites are deadly serious.
A picture tells a thousand words
Of course, you could strip out all the images and the website will load in no time. The trouble is, this gets you back to square one. A picture tells a thousand words. If visitors are greeted with a screen full of text, they will hit the back button. If they are offered something for sale without images, they will do the same. And if they are expected to wait more than three seconds – guess what, they will do exactly the same.
Clearly, the challenge is to make the best possible use of the best possible images, and this is where you can make smart use of stock background images. These provide the best of all worlds for a number of reasons:
They are designed with web optimization in mind – this means the ideal balance of quality versus “weight.”
They are of professional quality. You might be terribly proud of those snaps that you took on your phone, but one man’s “authentic” is another’s “amateur hour.”
They are SEO friendly. Stock images are named in a way that Google will understand, and that will help boost your rankings on the results pages.
Are pictures that important?
If you are selling bouquets of flowers or pairs of shoes, people need to see what you’ve got on offer, but what if you are a financial adviser or a shop selling plumbing supplies? Do people really need to see your smiling face, or a picture to show them what a length of copper pipe looks like?
The short answer is yes, they do. As we mentioned earlier, the online marketplace is unbelievably crowded, and assuming that you managed to drag your eyes from that counter earlier, you can rest assured that it is still running.
This means that buyers can afford to be choosy. According to a study by Live Person, more than 50 percent of online customers give up on a potential purchase due to insufficient product information. In a shop, you can look and touch the wares, and online, the right pictures are the next best thing.
Even if you are not selling tangible goods, images give you and your site more credibility. Good web design is the online equivalent of a smart office or reception area, and the quality of the images that you use can make or break it.
Forging ahead in the 21st-century marketplace
These days, your website is your shopfront; it is all that new customers have to go on to form a view on whether they want to do business with you. Furthermore, they will make that choice in a matter of seconds. We said earlier that you can create a half-decent website in 30 minutes, but the truth is, half-decent will just not cut it in today’s competitive environment. Get it wrong, and customers will go elsewhere, but get it right, and that Ferrari is right there waiting for you.